Big money at stake in Supreme Court case involving teachers

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Some in the state are calling again to consider paying teachers based off how well they teach.

It's a controversial subject. On one hand, it ensures teachers are rewarded when their students perform well. On the other hand, a teacher is not the only influence on whether a child fails or succeeds.

"It's a good idea because merit pay is simply rewarding great teachers for the great work that they do in the classroom," said Michael VanBeek, research director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

He believes teachers should be paid on performance, not seniority. He insists it will lead to more motivated educators for students.

"Historically and right now, the vast majority of school districts in Michigan pay teachers based simply on the number of years that they've logged on the job and the amount of time spent in college classrooms," VanBeek said.

At least one superintendent disagrees with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's view on merit pay.

"I have yet to see any research that shows that merit pay increases student achievement. Until I see that kind of research I don't think it's something I'm going to be a huge supporter of," said Matt Cairy, superintendent of Freeland schools.

He said a bump in pay isn't as simple as putting time in the classroom.

"In many school districts teachers don't get pay increases unless they're getting effective evaluations and in a lot of ways that is merit pay," Cairy said.

There is one issue where Cairy and VanBeek find common ground. They believe instructors who teach certain subjects should be paid more.

"We have a hard time filling special education, mathematics, science positions, even some high school language arts positions. These are areas where we have need where we may have to look at paying teachers more because we're just not getting enough teachers going into the profession," Cairy said.

He believes more state funding for education could help make that happen.

As for VanBeek, he wants to see Michigan's education system benefit every student that's a part of it.

"We spend a lot of money on it as taxpayers and we think there's room for improvement. Performance pay and merit pay is one way that we think we can do that," VanBeek said.

The Michigan Education Association released the following statement in regards to merit pay:Numerous studies have shown merit pay to be an ineffective way to improve student performance. It simply doesn't work. There are many variables that determine how well a student scores on a standardized test.Copyright 2016 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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